The GoGlobal Blog

Month: February 2018

Hello Rome, have we met?

Hello Rome, have we met?

Week Seven is already coming to an end. I can hardly believe it myself. As I reflect on the past month and a half, I can’t help but wonder, what have I actually accomplished in my time here? Home is where someone notices your absence. Has my home noticed mine? Have I already grown accustomed to a life away from the house and people I’ve always known? Can I honestly say I’ve taken advantage of the privilege of a life abroad and all that that entitles? My friends and followers all comment their envious blips on my posts, reaffirming my “luckiness.” I’ve met people from around the globe whose presence has affected me as a traveller and made me realize the importance of the impression you can leave on someone’s life, as big or small as it may be.

This might get real cheesy real fast, but bear with me. Call it what you may: meditation, homesickness, the cliche quest of a young adult trying to “find herself,” or whatever. Life abroad away from my family, friends, even weather, has made me realize just how much I take for granted. It started off with the little things like how close my house is to Target and the availability of a reliable dryer when I do laundry. It eventually built up to include how easy it is to FaceTime in the comfort of my house without having ten people walk in on me and the comforting feeling of knowing my mom is cooking up dinner in the next room. The familiarity of the home I grew up in has created a security blanket that I’ve had to shed in order to full enjoy what Rome has to offer.

While the rest of my classmates packed their bags to seek adventure in various European regions, my friends and I decided to slow down and spend two weekends in Rome. This consisted of a pretty empty cafeteria and hardly anyone adding to the arduous slamming of doors every ten minutes. While I agree on wanting to explore Europe at large (I myself have trips lined up), taking a step back is also a necessary part of enjoying a study abroad experience. Hitting up our favorite pub and dancing the night away to throwbacks of the 2000s (is that what they think Americans listen to all day?) can be just as rewarding as taking flights around the continent. All you really need is good company, good music, and a drink (I’m talking about Mountain Dews, baby!).

While I have yet to hit the halfway mark on my trip, I know there’s still a lot for me to see, hear, smell, taste, touch, etc. I often question how I can return to my life in Chicago when every day there’s something new to explore in Rome. At this point it’d probably take a lifetime to accept and adjust to the norms of European living. Despite the stress and late-night cram sessions (sometimes I forget I’m here to study), my time abroad has already changed me for the better. My appreciation for travel and culture will stick with me in everything I invest in. While my experience will certainly differ from the next person’s, reflection is key in understanding just what this period of adaptation means for the future. I know in my heart I’ll be back here, but for now I’ll take it one day at a time.

-Andrea

First Days at Service Site

First Days at Service Site

Hello again. Welcome to the second installment of my blog here in South Africa.

The thing that I want to focus most on in this entry is my service placement. I am working with St. Anne’s, a shelter for domestically abused women and children. It’s a nonprofit organization that takes in women and their children (aged 0 to 5) who have suffered domestic abuse. They are given housing, daily childcare, food, and a variety of resources to deal with their circumstances – they all work with St. Anne’s social worker and are helped through legal processes, doctor visits, and anything else they might need. Additionally, the shelter provides skills sessions for the women, like jewelry and candle making, job preparedness, and computer training. They also have individual assessments and group therapy sessions, and outsource to counselors and doctors to get each client the help they need. All of the steps in place at the shelter are geared towards helping the women work through their trauma, and prepare them to leave the shelter and become employed, and take care of their children. The women are usually there for about four months, and as needed, St. Anne’s has second and third stage homes separate from their main house and offices.

While I am here, I am mainly working with the social worker, Coleene, assisting her in whatever she needs. With her, I will mostly be helping with administrative business – filing, data entry, contacting ex-residents for various reasons, etc. However, apart from administrative duties, I will also have the opportunity to help with the skills workshops in the shelter, probably running or helping on on computer skills or career readiness sessions. I am very excited for this hands-on aspect of my work here, and hope that I get to know the women and help them through these projects. I may also get to see more of what the social work department does, through sitting in on conversations with the women and possibly accompanying them to court.

I’ve been to work at St. Anne’s three days now – I was placed nearly two weeks ago now, and go every Tuesday and Thursday. To give you an idea of what my week looks like, I go to normal classes at the University of the Western Cape on Mondays and Wednesdays, am at St. Anne’s from 9am-3pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and go back to UWC on Fridays for two classes specific to my program – only with the 17 other people in my program. My days at St. Anne’s so far have been largely introductory, and spent getting oriented to the people and the organization in general. It’s an interesting atmosphere because the staff and the shelter itself are housed in the same location. The shelter consists of two buildings, one with the front office/reception area attached to it, and the main house beyond that, with bedrooms and a kitchen. The second building has more bedrooms, a kitchen, the crèche (where the children spend their day), and the skills room, computer lab, and staff offices. So while I have been working mostly in Coleene’s office, I’m very connected to the shelter itself, and I’m excited to hopefully soon start seeing the skills labs and becoming involved.

One of the benefits of working within the shelter rather than separate from it is that I’m able to get to know the entire staff – not just the administrative and social work departments. As part of my orientation, I am sitting down with different people and getting to know about them and their role. One of the most intriguing conversations I’ve had, since I got to South Africa in general, was my sit down with the day house mother, Rabecca. As house mother, she develops a very strong relationship with the women as she, in addition to cooking and delegating their schedule during the day, helps them heal and become the best parent they can be. The thing that most struck me about our conversation was her emphasis on deeply caring for the women and their well-being, as well as the difficulty of this task itself. “It’s about humanity,” she told me.

She wants to be able to connect with the women in any way that they’ll let her, and push them to their highest potential. This perhaps seems like the obvious job of a house mother, but the way she spoke about her job made me realize how incredibly rewarding her role is. She didn’t mask or pretend that it wasn’t difficult, or that she struggled with it at first, but now she has been at St. Anne’s for a little over two years, and realizes that she will always be learning and finding out more about herself through the women. Her emphasis about showing respect and humanity is what stood out to me most about our conversation; I am excited to be working with an organization that directly impacts so many woman and has staff that care deeply about the outcome.

A note about service – a common criticism of students studying abroad is the “white savior” narrative, in which students think they can come and save a community, even though they are only there for a short period of time and cannot make a deep impact. This often comes out of “white guilt” as well, in which students seek to help only to make themselves feel better about their inherent privilege. I like the program that I’m in because we do stay in one place for about six months, so it is a longer period of time, but still, it’s not enough, and it’s difficult to justify our being here – do we have genuine intentions? Is it right for us to work with these organizations or schools for only half a year, only to pick up and leave? And there are problems with this, I’m not going to say it’s a perfect program. But instead of thinking about our service sites as organizations or schools that “need” us, rather Melikaya, our program director, encourages us to constantly take the time to step back, listen, and learn, rather than always jumping in with ideas and suggestions. The truth is that we don’t know enough about these communities to pass judgement or often even give our opinions. Rather, Melikaya reminds us that this is an opportunity to learn from another community and their way of doing things, and apply what we observe here in South Africa to our work in the US. The service work we do here should be a continuation of what we already partake in in the US, and we should continue it with even more passion and knowledge when we return. So, it’s not perfect, but we are still able to help how we can, and ultimately, hopefully, it is a mutually beneficial experience for us and our site.

Besides my first few days at my service site, my last two weeks have consisted of a music festival in the beautiful Kristenboch Gardens, a sunset hike up Chapman’s peak (pictured), a sunset boat ride at Cape Town’s waterfront, attending a wine festival in Stellenbosch (a suburb about half an hour outside of Cape Town), seeing Black Panther (would recommend), and continuing with my four classes. Other news – update on the water crisis – Day Zero has been moved to July, which is exciting, but we must keep the same water conservation efforts we’ve been practicing since we got here in order to keep pushing it back. Additionally, you might have heard that South Africa went through a transition of power, with former president Jacob Zuma resigning on February 14 as a result of large pressure by his own party, and Cyril Ramaphosa (Zuma’s vice president) being newly elected. I’m still learning about South African politics, but briefly, Zuma was president for nine years, but his presidency was riddled with scandals, including him being charged with rape in 2005. He currently has 783 charges of corruption against him. All of the South Africans I’ve spoken to speak poorly of Zuma and are happy about this transition of power. One of my professors even compared Zuma to Trump! Again, I’m still learning about politics here, but that’s a short summary of what has been going on.

So yes, there’s my one-month update here in Cape Town. I’m appreciating this city more everyday, and hope to keep exploring, hiking, and learning. See you soon. x

Prati, Ramen, and Reading for Fun

Prati, Ramen, and Reading for Fun

This past Wednesday, I took a tour of Prati, a Roman neighborhood that is home to Castel Sant’Angelo and St. Peter’s Square, with several other JFRC students. What made this tour unique, was that it was led by Italian students. The students study English at a local school and they were between 15 and 20 years old. They had the chance to practice their English by teaching us about the local sights as we walked around. We practiced our Italian and heard about what life is like for students living in Italy. They were all very nice and their teacher Frank did a good job motivating everyone to step out of their comfort zones and start conversation in their secondary language. I had never been to St. Peter’s Square and it looked exceptional in the setting sunlight. The lights in the square had just come on and my pictures fail to capture how pretty it all looked under the navy blue evening sky.

On Friday morning I traveled outside the ancient walls of the city to see St. Paul’s Basilica, which was equally beautiful. I has been raining all weekend here in Rome, so the trek was cold and wet. After what seemed like hours spent on two crowded buses, I arrived at St. Paul’s and got to spend as long as I wanted touring the cavernous church. St. Paul’s church is different than those of the Renaissance era because it is not filled with ornate decorations, paintings, and statues. St. Paul’s is quite empty, just a huge, quiet space for prayer and reflection. There are several rooms along the perimeter with some art and stories that tell the histories of religious figures like St. Ignatius of Loyola who founded the order of the Jesuits. Lining the walls near the ceiling are portraits of every pope since the beginning of the papacy. The coolest thing about the basilica is that it is likely the final resting place of St. Paul himself, and there you can see his sarcophagus and the chains that he was bound in while imprisoned. After the basilica, I went to a nearby ramen place called Akira which was really great. Hot green tea and a bowl of steamy veggies and noodles was exactly what I was craving after walking around in the cold rain all morning. Plus anything other than the same dining hall food here is a welcome change!

One of the best parts of being here for me has been the free time I have. During the week, I enjoy a much lighter work load than I have during normal semesters in Chicago. I have been using the extra time to work out in the gym almost every day. I’ve been reading and writing a lot more for fun, watching less Netflix and taking in much less social media. I feel good about that and I hope to keep up these habits when I get back to Chicago. Now, watching the occasional movie is a treat, it’s much more fun because my appreciation for it has grown. Similarly, reading is much more fun, like it used to be before high school. Things are good and I hope to keep improving them throughout the rest of the trip.

I am about halfway done with my semester in Rome and it feels like I’ll never be able to fit everything into the next 6 weeks. In an effort to try, I finally put together a list of things I want to see and do in Rome before I go. I realize I’ll have to skip some things because of my budget and limited time frame. My plan is to do my best and spend every weekend that I have left in Rome off campus, rain or shine, checking out as many restaurants and sights as possible. This way, when I get back home, I’ll have no regrets and I’ll know I did my best to fill the trip with as many memories as possible. Be on the lookout for more posts in the coming weeks as I get really familiar with Rome, while also getting to see Poland, Amsterdam, Assisi and the Amalfi Coast.

 

 

 

St. Peter’s Square at Night
Also St. Peter’s Square at Night
St. Paul’s Basilica Ceiling
The Popes at St. Paul’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Scammed: A Personal Adventure in Microeconomics

Getting Scammed: A Personal Adventure in Microeconomics

“No, no, its eleven cedis.”

“Eleven!?”

On the counter in a campus café was a can of Coke and a peach Snapple, but I only had offered a five cedi note to the man behind the counter. He told me the Snapple was 6 and the Coke was 5. I was incredulous.

“Five cedis for the Coke?”

The attendant clicked his tongue at me in affirmation.

I reluctantly fished more cash out of my small wallet and handed it over. I left the building with my lunch and drinks and walked back to the International House where I was waiting in between classes, all the while thinking that I had just bought a Coke from the same gentleman last week for 2gh, 50p.

One New Ghanaian Cedi is worth just less than a US quarter. Change is in pesewa values, and logically 100p is equal to 1gh. I’ve heard the government mints a 1p coin, but it’s of such little value that I’ve never seen it in circulation (Take a hint @US).

Usually, I spend around 100gh per week on meals. I can get a full meal and drink for around 2-5gh and I typically only eat 2 full meals a day. I do a lot of snacking.

By now I’ve become familiar with the places where I can get the most for my money. There’s a, for lack of a better term, food court called Bush Kanteen between ISH (where I live) and the main classroom buildings where I can get a full plate of rice for 2gh and a soda for 1. The night market just outside ISH has meals around 5gh, and at JQB, the lecture building with the café in question, I get a serving of rice and a Coke for 4gh.

A plate of fried rice and an egg, a meal that kept me full for most of the afternoon and only set me back 2gh.

I’ve been to JQB more than a few times for snacks and water and food, and they’ve pretty much remained consistent with their prices, until yesterday. I racked my brains to figure out why the man charged me double for a soda; the only difference I could ascertain was that I asked for a Coke in a can instead of a plastic bottle – but aren’t cans always cheaper than bottles? I already knew that the cheapest way to get soda is in a glass bottle, since the glass is sent back to the manufacturer and reused, but I’ve never paid more for aluminum than for plastic.

I didn’t want to consider that this nice guy, who’s got to recognize me by now, scammed me.

Scammed! In my fourth week here! Frankly I’m embarrassed.

In our first week here we were lectured on the local cash economies that allow Accra to function. Unless at a supermarket or shop in the mall, the price for an item is negotiable with the seller, and most sellers immediately double or triple their selling price at the sight of my skin. I’ve become decent at these interactions, resisting any seller who I know won’t budge on their prices, and returning to sellers who keep their prices consistently low. Sometimes I walk away knowing I was probably overcharged, but the exchange rate of the cedi is such that I’m rarely concerned.

I thought I was getting the hang of it, but if the same guy doubled his price for me and I paid without resisting, maybe I’m not.

I know I’m allowed to make mistakes, both here and at home. And I know that a mistake that cost me less than a dollar isn’t a lot to get worked up about. But shouldn’t I be able to tell when I’m being taken advantage of? I find myself unable to stand up for myself and insist that I’m being overcharged, or insist that I’m being treated poorly in other situations. Sometimes this is as simple as 2gh, and sometimes it’s a lot more harmful (I’m still working on how to talk about an example of this that happened last weekend, so be patient with me). And I know I’ll never blend in here, but every time I let someone take advantage of me because I’m American, I feel less confident about my presence here.

This is me holding myself accountable in writing – next time I go to JQB for a pop, I’m only going to give him what I think is appropriate. Next time I get a plate of rice, I’ll insist to only pay what it’s worth. Ghanaians are all more outgoing and confident than I am, so I think it’s time I meet them where they’re at. I’ll save that 2gh 50p if my life depends on it, dammit.

 

Wish me well,

Anna

 

P.S. The USAC group took a crazy trip this weekend to a monkey sanctuary, the highest mountain in Ghana, and a waterfall. Here’s some pics:

View from the top of Mt. Afadjato. Only half of the mountains in this photo are in Ghana – the rest are on the Togo side of the border.
Me, about to die climbing up this mountain.
Nicole, Kayla, Clarissa, and myself, after having died climbing up the mountain.
A monkey eating a stolen banana at Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary in Hohoe, a city in the Volta Region.
The Unexpected Trip of a Lifetime

The Unexpected Trip of a Lifetime

Hoi!

After arriving in Winterthur, the town that I’m living in, and quickly getting accustomed to the local area, my new friends and I decided it was time for our first trip. Since we only had the weekend and we hadn’t seen much of Switzerland yet, we chose to go to Luzern. Luzern is a small, scenic town in central Switzerland, and only about a two hour train ride from Winterthur.

Despite Luzern being a somewhat common place for people to visit in Switzerland, I didn’t expect much going into the trip. I’ve already planned many other trips to more popular tourist destinations  throughout Europe, so the quick visit to Luzern felt like more of a warm-up than a trip of a lifetime. However, I couldn’t have been any more wrong as Luzern ended up exceeding any expectations that I had and being a place I’ll always remember.

On Saturday morning, my friends and I arrived in Luzern with absolutely no idea what to do or what to see. Besides for the hotel that night and the train ride back, we hadn’t planned anything in advance.

When we started to walk around the town, I was immediately captivated by all of the views Luzern had to offer. Every single street was fascinating and we walked around the town for hours, only stopping to get sweets and coffee at a Café or to look inside one of the fancy stores that Luzern is filled with.

One thing I’ll need to work on in Switzerland is my dessert picture-taking skills

Besides having dazzling streets and being a shopper’s dream, the town also sits on a lake, with two famous bridges that go across it. We crossed the bridges multiple times without ever getting tired of looking at the incredible place that surrounded us. Most people likely just walk across the bridge once or twice, but the feeling that it gave me was something that I wanted to have over and over.

The bridges and all of the streets in the town were extraordinary and already enough to make the trip worthwhile, but that wasn’t even close to the highlight of the trip. The best part came when we decided to take a risk and venture into the unknown.

From the moment my friends and I got to Luzern, all of us noticed a white palace-like building that overlooked the entire town. The building looked like something straight out of a Disney movie and we took turns coming up with theories of what it could actually be. We eventually found out it was a hotel, but we still had no idea how to get up there or whether it was even possible. In the end, we decided to just figure it out for ourselves.

After trying to get up to the hotel a few different ways, we finally found a small trail that we thought led up to it. Thankfully, at the end of the trail was the hotel, but also the best view that I’ve ever seen in my life. My friends and I stood there for about an hour taking in the panoramic scenes of the entire town.  Not only did we get a view of a lifetime, we also went into the hotel and had coffee and dessert. Being in the hotel made feel like royalty, as it was just as grand and luxurious inside as it appeared to be from the outside. My friends and I sat there for a couple of hours and connected with each other, all while still being able to see the whole town from our table.  

It wasn’t until after the trip  that I looked online at what to do in Luzern. Ironically, I found lists filled with museums and excursions that we didn’t do and not a single mention of the hotel or the views from it. It made me realize that you shouldn’t always do what is advertised the most or what tourists usually do in a particular city or town. Sometimes, you have to take a chance because you never know what you could discover.

Aside from the trip to Luzern, day to day life has been tremendous as well. I’m currently writing this blog while having a Cappuccino in one of my favorite spots in Winterthur, Locanda Trivisano, after just taking a class in Portfolio Theory. The trip was truly memorable, but living here in Winterthur and being an exchange student is something I’ll hopefully never take for granted.

I look forward to writing more about my daily life here in Winterthur in future blogs and showcasing all of the aspects of studying abroad.

Till then,

Radek

 

 

 

I Live in Rinaldo’s

I Live in Rinaldo’s

I live in Rinaldo’s. I’ve officially set up shop and am not leaving until spring break starting today. I realize that I’m spending too much time focusing on creating content for work and brainstorming that I haven’t been studying enough. I’ve done research on different and effective ways to use instagram to make sales, while posting 3 times a week, I’m supposed to also be posting 2-3 stories a week,

finding new stories to write about like new restaurants, and the March Events Blog post is due next Monday. I completely bombed my finance test which probably shouldn’t have been as hard as it was. I need to be more focused and balanced in how I’m allocating my time. The rest of my midterms are next week so I’m basically not leaving JFRC until my grades are where I need them to be (or sleeping probably, but that’s college right?). Today I took the 990 Bus to Vatican City to take some pictures for my internship and send out postcards to my friends and family. It was 2,80 euros per stamp. The man who was working at the post office seemed was super rude. I handed him my debit card and he threw my postcards on the

desk and said, “No Card.” Alright, noted. I handed him cash, took my postcards and stamps, and left. It was probably because I spoke English to be honest. On my way back to the bus I stopped at a McCafe. I wish McDonalds had them in the united states like they do here. They have cheesecake, muffins, cornetto, colorful doughnuts, and it’s awesome. I got some decent pictures for the Roman Foodie instagram. I ended up buying a creamolosa al caffee. Its pistachio fudge topped with espresso and vanilla soft serve. I had no idea what I was getting but I figure I should try a new thing every day if I can. My life has been changed. With such easy access

to sweets, I’ve come to the realization that I need to do something to keep me healthy. So, for the past month or so I’ve gone to the gym 5-6 times a week depending how my body feels. I’m finally starting to see the benefit of all the work I’ve put in and I’m really happy about. So, the goal for next week is to sort my life out, but its really hard to say the least.

 

Take a Hike!

Take a Hike!

On Friday I went on a hike around Monte Mario, the big hill that is home to the JFRC and the surrounding Balduina neighborhood. Soon after setting off, JFRC librarian and enthusiastic hiker Ann Wittrick in the lead, I heard murmurings from some other hikers that this trek would be four hours long. Four hours!? I hadn’t seen anything about this on the posters. Apparently, the information was on Facebook. Once again, I was out of the loop because I don’t check Facebook. I was not the only one taken by surprise though, other hikers quickly grew apprehensive, several suddenly regretting their light breakfasts of coffee and cornetti. Nevertheless, we were off! As our feet pounded along wooded trails, up and down the hills of Rome, many of the original bright-eyed travelers fell away, opting to catch a bus home as the rest of us continued. I’d say that about 15 of us stayed for the entire trip. I’m glad I stayed because I got some cool pictures of the city and saw the Olympic Stadium where Rome’s most famous soccer teams play.

We made our way up the trails of Monte Mario Nature Reserve which is 139 meters (456 ft.) high. The hill is home to a lot of biodiversity which is not so easy to find in today’s metropolitan Rome. The ground beneath the oak and maple trees is a mixture of sand and gravel from the ancient days of Rome. Though there was more wildlife there years ago, the area is still home to rodents like house and field mice as well as birds like the Jackdaw, Long-tailed Tit, and Rome’s infamous Starlings. (The last of this group swarm the city every year in November and December, burying the city in buckets of their, umm, gifts) The hill gave us some unique views of the city. From different viewpoints along the trail we could see the Vatican, the Colosseum, and the Olympic Stadium poking out among Rome’s orange and yellow apartments.

After the hilltop, we visited a French cemetery for fallen French soldiers of World War II. Many of the soldiers had German names, evidence of the many changes throughout France’s history between the cultures of Germany and France. There were many graves honoring fallen Muslim soldiers as well. These had gravestones with different shapes, and symbols of a crescent moon and star. One of the JFRC’s theology teachers was with us, and he remarked that the Muslim graves were here because there had been so many Muslim soldiers recruited by the French army during the war. Not too far from the cemetery stands a giant statue of the Virgin Mary, meant as a symbolic praise to God for keeping Rome safe during WWII.

As we made our way back to campus, we visited the Olympic Stadium which was built to host the 1942 Olympic Games in Rome, but did not because of WWII. The stadium and adjacent Olympic Village was used to host the games in 1960. We saw the buildings that housed the athletes, and a practice field and track next to the actual stadium. The grounds of the stadium are dotted with Greek style statues depicting muscular athletes. Our S.L.A Judy, told us that fascist leader Benito Mussolini had ordered the statues to be built, with the ideal fascist Italian man in mind. These brawny dudes (not a woman in sight of course) were meant to symbolize the way Mussolini wanted every man to look. I thought it was funny then, when Judy also told us that the reason each statue was made to look across the field at the statue opposite it, could be traced back to ancient Greek traditions; specifically, the tradition of young men forming relationships with older men as a way to enter adulthood. We also saw the old headquarters of the fascist party in Italy. It was, an extremely square, plain grey building with no defining features. It looked like it had come out of a Fascists Architecture 101 textbook. In the courtyard outside, there were huge stone blocks inscribed with a highlight reel of Mussolini and, by extension, the fascist party. The blocks at the end of the rows have been left blank, with the idea that they would be filled in as the fascists continued influencing the world.

At the end, though my feet were tired, I was glad the hike was so long. I left with the nice reminder that taking a nice long walk is an effective way to clear one’s head. A hike in the woods, or a walk through the town can boost your mood and bring everything into perspective. I hope to visit the Monte Mario Reserve at least once more before I go.

 

 

 

Some of the Muslim graves in the French WWII cemetery we visite

The public soccer field next to the Olympic Stadium

View from Monte Mario trail

 

 

 

 

 

What I Learned: Cinque Terre

What I Learned: Cinque Terre

At the beginning of February, I visited a region of Northern Italy called Cinque Terre, which translates to “five lands.” This is an area of five small towns, and in just two days, I was able to visit each one. While I was there, I learned a few things that I thought I’d share with you all.

  • Before you go on a trip, you should do more research than a quick Google search.

The week before we left, I was stressed. Classes had really picked up, and I had a lot of work to do. I was traveling with just one other friend, and I let her do a lot of the research and planning. My research consisted of reading the first few things that popped up when I searched “What to do in Cinque Terre.” While these were helpful and gave me an idea of what to expect from the region, I wasn’t asking the right questions. I should’ve been searching the best time to go to Cinque Terre, for starters, because we ended up going during off season. This seems obvious- Cinque Terre is right on the water and many people go there for the beaches. February isn’t the best time to sit on the beach. But we still expected there to be more to do! As we sat in a restaurant for lunch on Saturday shortly after we arrived, we tried asking the waitress for some suggestions of things to do in the region. She laughed, a bit nervously, and said, “Well, in the winter, there’s not much to do here.” If we had done a little more research, we would’ve known this!

  • But you don’t always have to listen to what your research tells you.

That being said, I’m almost glad we didn’t know that going in. It would’ve skewed my idea of the region. It was almost funny, us walking around trying to find things to do. Even though we saw it in most of the towns, we were still surprised when we made it to the next and seemed to be some of the only people there. The weekend we went was a shorter weekend for us (we had had classes on Friday, so we were only able to travel Saturday and Sunday), so we had just the right amount of time to wander through all the towns before heading home. If it had been warmer, we might’ve gotten distracted by the beach and wanted to sit there all weekend. Don’t get me wrong, that would’ve been great, but going in February allowed us to really see all the towns, compare them, and pick which was our favorite. We saw some beautiful views and captured pictures that I will forever want to show off to family and friends.

  • Go to the bathroom whenever one is offered to you, but don’t look into it too much.

This has become something I’ve learned of Italy in general, but bathrooms are… different here. Public restrooms are often available near big tourist sites, but you usually have to pay up to one euro for entry. Restaurants have bathrooms, but you are of course expected to purchase something in order to use them. Stores like clothing stores and supermarkets do not have bathrooms. So, on weekend trips and whenever I venture into the city, every time I stop for a meal or gelato or a cappuccino, I make it a point to go to the bathroom. This was especially important in Cinque Terre because we were constantly on the go, and we didn’t always know when we’d find another open restaurant or bar. So… My second comment probably sounds a little confusing- why shouldn’t you look into the bathroom too much? During lunch on Sunday, asI entered the bathroom of our restaurant for the second time (trying to take full advantage of a free bathroom in reach), I looked at the ceiling and saw THE BIGGEST SPIDER I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. I am pretty terrified of spiders, so the appeal of the bathroom was quickly diminished. In general, bathrooms here are fine, but many toilets don’t have toilet seats. The bathrooms are usually in the basement of buildings, and after trekking down steep staircases to get to them, they can be pretty dirty. So, use bathrooms when possible, but always carry hand sanitizer with you and don’t look up!!

  • Talk to the locals, even though it’s scary!

The friend I traveled with is much more advanced in her Italian skills than I am, so I leaned on her throughout the weekend to help us navigate the unfamiliar towns. I am used to keeping my head down and avoiding nerve-wracking situations, but she was great about asking the locals for suggestions. We met the owner of a nearby café (where we ate breakfast on both days and I had a late night snack on Saturday), and he gave us directions and made great cake!! I realized how important those interactions can be, even if they’re scary. This local’s café was our favorite place in Corniglia, the town we stayed in, and we were able to see more of Cinque Terre because we talked to the owner. (I’m hoping to write more about conversations with locals in a later blog post, so stay tuned!)

My best Italian is still me ordering gelato.

  • Embrace the local culture and norms of where you go.

I have never been the most outdoorsy person, and when I started telling people I wanted to go to Cinque Terre, they kept mentioning the hiking there. My friend and I left for the weekend hoping that the trains running between the towns we heard about weren’t just a myth. And they weren’t! We used the trains to get from some towns to the next. But once we’d spent some time there, we realized how big of a role the hiking trails played in the “culture” in Cinque Terre. We completed two hikes during the weekend (one on each day), and it ended up being one of our favorite parts. We decided to try the shorter trails so as not to burn out, which was a good decision because wow! I was sore for days afterwards! But the views we saw along the way were breathtaking. I snapped pictures constantly, each time muttering, “Okay I know I said the last one would be my last picture but look at that!” We met some very nice locals and fellow tourists who helped guide us in the right direction, and we enjoyed some good conversation along the way.

Some views from a hike.

Although the weekend wasn’t really what I had expected or what I would have planned, it ended up being so relaxing. It pulled me off campus without completely exhausting me, as some of my longer trips have. I learned to go with the flow for the weekend- something I’ve never been great at. It really payed off, and Cinque Terre has been one of my favorite places so far.

In front of our favorite view!

 

Studying Abroad and Adjusting to Work Life

Studying Abroad and Adjusting to Work Life

This week went much smoother. I no longer have a fever and I’ve got a better grasp on how to do my job. I enjoy being in the office. Weekends I’ve decided to prep photos for the week. It’s vital for me to prep my Wednesday Instagram post ahead of time because my posts are meant to go out at 6:00pm every. Since I tutor 5:30pm to 6:30pm I found myself rushing to create a post after homework and in between tutoring this week. The post was subpar, but I’m working on it.

 

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday If I’m out getting a cappuccino, at a market, or even passing a restau
rant, I need to take pictures of what I see and document where I saw it. Mondays and Thursdays are days where while I’m in the office I create. This could be anything from putting quotes on pictures I’ve taken over the weekend, to creating posts to schedule into MeetEdgar. These days are a little tricky because the shifts are so short. Monday I’m in the office for three hours while Thursday I work two. Friday shifts are five hours, so I have plenty of time to research marketing tactics to try to gain a bigger following. For social media, it’s really important to constantly be following people to get the company’s name out there.

To make more time in the office for other tasks, I’ve decided to check social media throughout my day. For instance, if I’m eating lunch at Mensa I could also be following people, liking photos, commenting on posts, or brainstorming post ideas. It’s tough but I can do it. Saturdays need to be spent studying or I’ll never pass. I think I’ve got a better feel for my schedules as time goes along. In retrospect, I’m happy I didn’t schedule weekend trips every weekend like the rest of the JFRC students. I don’t know how I’d be able to manage constant travel and my responsibilities in Rome. Things are looking up! Only two more weeks until Spring Break and I’m ready. I’ve already got flights booked to London, then I’m taking the train to Paris. While

in Paris I’m taking photos for The Romans Guy’s other branch, The Paris Guy. This week I was given the responsibility of growing followers in The Paris Guy’s instagram as in addition to my other responsibilities. I think the photo aspect with be fun and I’m super excited to get creative with it.

During my time posting for The Roman Foodie, I’ve grown to appreciate how much time goes into marketing for food. It could be the best food on the planet, but if it doesn’t look good, no one wants to try it. The key to being good at marketing is to make everything look as good as possible. The food looks good, the company looks good, I look good.

Che Figata!

Che Figata!

As Rene Descartes says, “If you spend too much time traveling you will become a stranger in your own home” but does it count if your home is in a foreign place..?

While in Rome I have become acquainted with the old nomadic lifestyle of constant movement. Whenever it seems that I may remember the name of the corner coffee shop, the corner changes along with the name of the city that I am staying in. However, not all is lost, along with my lack of orientation, because as the cities change I maintain my curiosity.

However, it is neither the illustrious Churches with all their golden skies and white marble cloud covered floors, nor the magnificent statues who bring older men to their knees in envy of their immortal essences that grab hold of my mind and soul. There are those places unseen and unrecognized that hold true rare brilliance. There is a museum found curbside the Arno River, near the city center, that has little to no foot traffic. Constantly ignored by the diamond-eyed tourism, is Galileo Galilei’s dedication from the people of Florence. When walking through the levels of repossessed mechanisms, it is enlightening to look at the makeshift wonders that still currently shape our mind and beliefs in the material world. From 500-year-old equipment made to predict the arrangement of our stars today, to the first pulleys whose design would lead to the industrial revolution and elevators. If you are allowed the chance, visit Florence and return home to the origin of what we call direction, speed, and the primary properties. Then take the elevator down to experience his brilliance. Che Figata!